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Cubs-centric NCAA basketball Round of 64

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Here’s how a March Madness tournament might go, based on Cubs players drafted by schools in this year’s field.

Chase Strumpf, the Cubs’ second-round pick out of UCLA in 2019
Photo by Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

I continue with my projected Cubs-centric basketball field of 64. Players from before the existence of the draft are beyond consideration. As such, Lou Boudreau or early 20th Century pitcher Carl Lundgren, provide no benefit to the team. One of the things I’ve noticed id how few players the Cubs have signed and gotten production from, from the obvious baseball schools. My hunch is that there are valid reasons for that, with not many of them good. With plenty of games to play through, off we go, playing these fictional games with rolls of 20-sided dice.

Starting in the East, Michigan has a surprisingly good Cubs representation. I’ll start with big-league catcher Tom Lundstedt, who the Cubs drafted from Ann Arbor in 1970. After playing for the Cubs in 1973 and 1974, he went to the Twins in a trade for infielder Mike Adams. Memories of either player are welcomed below the bump.

Texas Southern still has no player options for the second round.

In a rather one-sided matchup, the Wolverines win by 34, and advance.

Louisiana State opts for Alex Lange, a pitcher sent (with pitcher Paul Richan) to the Tigers for Nick Castellanos, before a home run of his became a meme for Thom Brennaman’s cultural tone-deafness.

St. Bonaventure has no player representative.

LSU wins by 25.

Colorado and Georgetown play next. Neither has had a Cubs selection or major leaguer. In a classic 5/12 upset, Georgetown rolls to a 12 point lead.

Florida State doesn’t have much of a Cubs history, but they had Taiwan Easterling in the lower minors for a few years. On the other hand, North Carolina/Greensboro hasn’t had a player mentioned by the Cubs on draft day.

Florida State advances in a 17-point win.

Brigham Young against UCLA is a bit telling. Though the Bruins have been legendarily solid for decades, the Cubs have rarely developed anyone from Westwood. In a Round of 64 match-up, UCLA goes with a recent draft choice in Chase Strumpf. BYU goes with 1989 post-season contributor Vance Law. Law drove in 120 runs in two Cubs seasons, back when fans were agog over RBI.

UCLA hangs in with a solid early performance, but the Cougars win by six.

Texas has about as much Cubs draft history as anyone — Burt Hooton, among others. In this matchup against Abilene Christian, who has no Cubs draft picks ever, has no representative.

Texas has six players in double figures, including two off the bench in a 37 point win.

Connecticut uses John Andreoli, a Cubs draft pick who had 67 plate appearances in the AL in 2018. Maryland responds with Gene Hiser, a first-rounder in 1970 who reached Wrigley the next season. Alas, Hiser’s career peaked with 100 games in 1973. Hiser memories are definitely welcomed.

Maryland wins on a buzzer-beater.

Alabama plays Iona, who is represented by Joe Porcelli. a 15th Rounder in 1990. Porcelli pitched for two seasons between the New York/Penn League, and the Carolina League. In both seasons, his ERA was mildly over 4.50. He was released, and played a season of Indy Ball. Had I followed audio streams of Cubs pipeline games thirty years ago, I’d have tales.

The Crimson Tide has a few options, and their choice for the opener is Dave Magadan, who had about lost any speed when he reached the Cubs. Alabama wins by 22.

South

Baylor has had more MLB Cubs than you might expect. Fritzie Connally was a Cubs 7th Rounder by the Cubs in 1980, and reached Wrigley for eight games in 1983. I don’t remember Connally. Hartford has no Cubs history.

Baylor by 35.

North Carolina has much less Cubs history than you might think. Wisconsin cancelled their baseball program a few years back. Casey Kopitzke was a Badger player, and managed in the Cubs pipeline. Carolina responds with Adam Greenberg, and the Tar Heels win by 11.

Winthrop plays against Villanova, and Winthrop hasn’t had a Cubs player. For Villanova, Bill Bliss is the choice. A third-rounder in 1991, Bliss played in 1991, 1992, and 1993 for Peoria. His ERA got higher each season. He also pitched in the Colorado system in 1995.

Wildcats by 14.

Purdue has two options, and Chadd Blasko is the choice for this round. Blasko was a first-rounder by the Cubs in 2002, and I’d have stories if I tracked the pipeline by audio stream back then. He was great in 2003 but struggled in 2004 at Double-A West Tennessee.

North Texas has never had a Cubs draft pick.

Purdue by 14.

Texas Tech goes with current outfield prospect Zach Davis. Utah State has never had a Cubs draft pick. Red Raiders by a comfy dozen.

Colgate has never had a Cubs prospect. Arkansas goes with current pitching prospect Jake Reindl for the Hogs, who coast to an 18-point win.

Virginia Tech and Florida both have some Cubs history. Florida uses David Ross, a 7th Round pick by the Dodgers in 1998. In one of the best games of the round, the Mountaineers win on an overtime stickback.

Second seed Ohio State should smush Oral Roberts, right? The Buckeyes are represented by Tony Khoury, a 63rd (!) rounder in 1993. His highest level was with Rockford in 1993, and his ERA was 4.60 that season.

Oral Roberts uses Dallas Beeler, and Oral Roberts stuns the Buckeyes by nine.

Midwest

Drexel isn’t a baseball mecca. The Cubs haven’t signed anyone from Drexel. Illinois sends out Zac Taylor, who hit three homers in an Arizona League game in 2019. Illini by 29.

Loyola (IL) isn’t a baseball school. Georgia Tech uses Daniel Spingola, an outfielder the Cubs drafted twice. The Javckets disrupt the Illinois/Illinois matchup with an eight-point win.

Oregon State and Tennessee are two of the better baseball schools in the field. The Vols (Zack Godley) eliminate the Ducks (Darwin Barney) by three in triple-overtime.

13 seed Liberty goes with current outfield prospect DJ Artis against Oklahoma State and Doug Dascenzo. Liberty leads by four at the half, but The Cowboys pull away to win by 11.

Syracuse sends Bill Connors, who was a Cubs pitcher and pitching coach. The favored San Diego State side sends out Steve Hill, a 13th Rounder in 1986, who played three seasons in the Cubs pipeline. In a game that gets a bit chippy, the Aztecs win by nine.

Morehead State has never had a Cubs signee. The Cubs recently signed Darius Hill, a West Virginia outfielder who played at three levels in the 2019 Cubs pipeline, including the last ever Midwest League Champions in South Bend.

West Virginia by 11.

Clemson and Rutgers both get a tough draw. Rutgers uses Eric Young, pushing Clemson to go with Tyler Colvin. Overtime, with Clemson winning by four.

The Cubs drafted Al Stacey, a first baseman, from Cleveland State in 1988 in the 31st round. None of his 118 Cubs pipeline games were at the full-season level. Houston counters with Ian Rice, who has reached the Triple-A level for the Cubs, as recently as 2019. Houston by 11.

Spokane’s Gonzaga has had fewer Cubs drafted than I’d expect. They’re a solid northwest baseball school with no Cubs draft choices in almost 20 years. Norfolk State has nobody else to use, so Jeff Culpepper (a 24th Round choice in 2004) is plenty imposing. Culpepper played 142 games in the Cubs system in the mid-2000s, and the Bulldogs defeat Norfolk State by 38.

Missouri uses World Series ring recipient Rob Zastryzny. Oklahoma counters with Rocky Cherry, a 2002 draft choice sent in a package to Baltimore for Steve Trachsel. In an overtime game, Missouri wins by five.

13th seed Ohio hasn’t has a Cubs draft choice. Virginia uses Derek Casey, who pitched part of a combined no-hitter for South Bend. Cavaliers by 17.

Creighton uses Rollie Lacy, who was a piece in the Cole Hamels trade. Santa Barbara goes with Chris Valaika, of the Valaikas who have encircled the Cubs development pipeline the last decade. A three pointer at the buzzer sends Creighton to the next round.

Grand Canyon is a baseball school, but the Cubs haven’t drafted any Antelopes. Iowa goes with Tyler Peyton, a 2016 29th rounder from Iowa City. Peyton pitched in 84 games in the system, almost exclusively in relief, though 2019.

Hawkeyes roll by 19.

Oregon goes with Tommy Thorpe, a 2014 8th Round choice that advanced to Triple-A in 2017. Virginia Commonwealth goes with tenth-rounder (2015) that was Rule 5’d by Oakland in 2019, and survived the 2020 season.

VCU clobbers Oregon by 14.

Eastern Washington isn’t a noted baseball school. The Cubs haven’t drafted anyone from there. Jim Phillips was a Cubs 20th rounder in 1983, and had a decent year in Double-A Pittsfield in 1987 before disappearing from organized ball.

Finally, Southern Cal goes with Mark Prior. Wichita State goes with Joe Carter. If you didn’t follow the Cubs between 1970 and 1984, you have no idea how important 1984 was for the Cubs’ collective psyche. Carter-plus for Sutcliffe-plus got both teams what they pretty much needed at the time. In double overtime, Shockers by three.

Round of 32 games will be ready for Saturday.